Nutrition and good health have been important parts of my life, since I had problems with acne in my teens. As a result, I developed a strong interest in nutrition and exercise to help keep my body fit and healthy. My dietary practices at that time were not optimal, and I have in recent years changed to a plant-based diet.
I never thought of going into nutrition science for a career. I chose engineering. I graduated from California State University in 1956 and worked for several companies in Los Angeles and San Diego. My speciality became configuration management, a sub-discipline of systems engineering. This involves setting up systematic procedures to identify the requirements for developing new systems. Its evaluation includes the impact of proposed changes on performance, reliability, safety, costs, durability and ability to function efficiently under expected operational environments. Long term system maintainability and avoidance of unintended consequences are also evaluated. I co-authored the first book on this subject: Fundamentals of Configuration Management. Later I perceived the relevance of this work to human efficiency, health, and longevity.
In 1976 I got my master’s degree in Business Administration. My thesis was on how the increasing size of an organisation affected its level of entropy or disorder and operating efficiency. I found that efficiency declined with increasing size, energy and complexity. I was already thinking about whether the entropy theory might explain human ageing. Based on the second law of thermodynamics, I surmised that increasing body weight and energy needs would increase disorder and promote more rapid ageing. I subsequently published a paper on this hypothesis in Human Development (1974).
I then began thinking how to test this hypothesis and decided to find data on the longevity of people based on body size. I found a baseball encyclopaedia that provided height, weight and longevity data for professional players. I used height as a stable index of body size compared with weight, which is liable to change considerably over the life-course. Subsequent studies showed that weight during young adulthood provided similar results. Around 1990, Dr. Lowell Storms of the Medical School of the University of California in San Diego and I evaluated the survival of US army veterans, based on height, using data available from the Veterans Administration Hospital in San Diego. Our findings, published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization in 1992, showed that shorter veterans lived a few years longer than taller ones.
In 1992, I established Reventropy Associates to focus full-time on my research into human size and its worldwide ramifications. With the help of various researchers, about 35 papers were published on the undesirable connection between height and nutrition, chronic disease, longevity, resource consumption and the environment. My associates have included specialists in health, medicine, biology and nutrition. I also wrote a book on human height called The Truth About Your Height. My most recent book, edited and written with colleagues, Human Body Size and the Laws of Scaling Performance, Growth, Longevity and Ecological Ramifications, was published in 2007.
Our findings tend to create kneejerk reactions in some tall people. After reading The Truth About Your Height, a member of a tall person’s club wrote that if he met me in person and I offered my hand in friendship, he would crush it! Once, a tall girlfriend said she was upset with my findings and that tall people didn’t like me. I tried to explain that whether short or tall, height is not a badge of achievement or wrongdoing, since we didn’t have a choice on how tall we wanted to be. It’s no different than being born male or female or being of a different ethnic group.
It is argued that our children should reach their maximum genetic potential for height. My response is that we have a genetic potential to reach a bodyweight of over 300 pounds. Yet, with the exception of a few sports, such as sumo wrestling and American football, no one would recommend this. Males also have a genetic potential for high aggression, but we also shouldn’t promote that human feature.
Over the years, my associates and I have published our height findings and observations in many journals including: Bulletin of the World Health Organization, South African Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Human Development, European Heart Journal, Public Health Nutrition, Experimental Gerontology, International Journal of Medical and Biological Frontiers, Medical Science Monitor, Nutrition Research, Acta Paediatrica, Medical Hypotheses, Western Journal of Medicine, Ageing Research Reviews, American Journal of Epidemiology, and Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences. Contributions have been made to a number of books including: Epidemiology and Demography in Public Health; International Encyclopedia of Public Health; Physiological, Performance, Growth, Longevity and Ecological Ramifications; Trends in Nutrition Research; New Developments in Obesity Research.